“Happy Birthday”

Miriam raised out of bed slowly, rubbing a good night’s rest from the corners of her eyes.  The cold weather generally allowed for more deep sleep, and robbed most of her town’s inhabitants of the motivation to commence with the day’s activity.  In reality, Miriam payed most of her time to the books her parents procured from the local library, each giving in return a new piece of knowledge or imagination.  For a child of only nine, her interest in non-fiction proved remarkable.  Whether it be historical works or the local newspaper, Miriam pored over countless black and white pages, exhausting their contents until she could find a new source of that precious entertainment.  Fortunately for her, these sources abounded.

The First War threw a chaos into the works of German life which found most families unprepared.  It presented the human race with the first inkling of the thought of modern warfare.  Gone were the days of Napoleonic warfare.  Instead, airships, tanks, machine guns, and artillery reigned supreme.  Endless blood poured onto soil for meager feet, and the casualties seemed innumerable.  While the body count rose during the war, collateral damage wreaked havoc for years following, primarily in Germany.  Being strong-armed into a treaty that effectively crippled the country as a whole left a sour taste in the mouths of the German people, and was only compounded by the tangible effect it exerted on every day affairs.  While America basked in the Roaring 20’s, Germans struggled fervently to recover from the conflict of their forefathers.

Miriam’s mother called to her youngest, “Miriam, bring your brother and join us for breakfast.”

Bright eyed and bushy tailed, Miriam sprang down the stairs with her brother Salomon, grunting and sluggish, in tow.

Enjoying a breakfast at ease with her family remained one of Miriam’s favorite parts of being on vacation from school.  Although she valued knowledge, she grew tired of its acquisition, as most children do.

“Mama, does father have to work tomorrow?”

“Yes, Miriam, unfortunately so.  However, I am sure he will not forget your birthday.  He loves you very much.”

The anticipation of birthdays and holidays for children often proves to be a source of great anxiety.  Few things are more important than birthdays.  In Miriam’s case, this anticipation provided great sadness as her father, Isaak, would be absent.

In the aftermath of the First War, Germans saw the harsh reprimand of war.  In truth, it was left in shambles.  Engulfed with pride and determined to rebuild, Germans looked to the most feasible outlet:  political parties.  The dissolution of the German Empire birthed a need for a new system, and Germans scurried to find a cause which they could support. While the battles on the global front ceased, the battles on the political point raged on more fervently than ever, and when the dust settled, Adolf Hitler found himself victorious.  Over time, most Germans, including Miriam’s family, accepted Hitler’s political landscape, and for good reason.  The vast hyperinflation and economic hardship seen following the Great War was replaced by the virtual extinction of unemployment and it seemed to most that the rebound of Germany was complete.

Miriam’s father found work as a factory worker, and although his occupation was less than glamorous, it provided for his family.  As of late though, Isaak found himself being called on more and more for work.  His factory, located on the outskirts of Berlin, was outputting at a level beyond the normal, and while this caused him some thought, the money which came with it soothed his wonder.

As the day dragged on, Miriam missed her father more and more.  Celebrations sour with the slightest disruption, and to Miriam, a time of celebration could not be so without her Papa present.  Into the night, at long last, he opened the door and presented her with a stuffed bear and necklace, paid for with the week’s extra hours.

“My darling, happy birthday.  I am so very proud of you.”

Miriam’s universe had returned to normal function.  Now, sleep slowly clawed its way into her thoughts, and though she fought to enjoy time sitting with her father, she eventually drifted into unconsciousness, content with her world.

Despite a long shift at the factory, Isaak could not allow himself to wake his daughter so that he might also enjoy a deep slumber.  As work intensified, he found moments like this were becoming scarcer.  He began to cry.  Time, it seemed, had stolen years with his littlest child, and he resolved that he would spend more time watching her grow.  After placing her in her bed, he began to read the Psalms.  Jehovah provided consolation in all of his life, and surely this time would be no different.  Much like his daughter, Isaak possessed a natural propensity for reading, and after receiving comfort from the Psalms and praying, he allowed himself to rest, thinking only of spending the days he had off with his daughter and son.

And then the trains came…

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